The 10 best beach vacations in the US span from the tropical island shores of Hawaii to barrier islands and coastal cities around the nation.
See which spots strike your fancy in this list of the top 10 beaches for your next vacation!
Why You Should Take a Beach Vacation
Thinking about heading to the beach soon? It’s a good plan on all accounts, with the potential to lower your stress levels, help strengthen you against disease and sickness, and bolster your mental health and sense of wellness.
Taking a vacation can lead to lower stress levels, decreased heart disease and death risk, and better sleep quality, according to a report from the New York Times.
Make it a beach vacation, and the benefits are even greater. Going to the beach gives you more time outdoors, which is shown to help regulate your circadian rhythm for better sleep and increase focus and relaxation.
It doesn’t hurt that beach vacations open you up to new activities that get your body moving and heart pumping!
Whether it’s a bike ride around town, walks along the shore, or trying new water sports, beach vacations help motivate you to exercise and stay active.
Getting more Vitamin D, which your body makes when you’re exposed to the sun, can control inflammation, boost your mood, and even target cancer cells and ward off dementia.
About 42% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, making a beach vacation with plenty of sunshine the perfect way to boost your levels.
Who you travel with can also enhance the benefits of your beach vacation. A solo beach trip can be the perfect time for rest and reflection, while traveling with friends or family can enhance those connections and help you deepen your bonds.
It doesn’t matter if you’re seeking a warm and sunny island paradise where you can splash all day or a quiet beach with mild temperatures and scenic views.
If less stress, a healthier body and mind, and better relationships with yourself or your travel mates sounds like a good deal, a beach vacation is the perfect idea.
Let’s take a look at the 10 best beach vacations in the US next.
The 10 Best Beach Vacations in the US
From the tropical shores of Hawaii to unspoiled barrier islands off the coast of Texas, look no further than the good ol’ US of A for some of the best beach vacations you can take.
You’ll see the 10 best beach vacations in the US listed below. Swimming, surfing, sandcastles, and sunshine are all in your near future if you plan a trip to any of these coasts and capes!
1. Oahu, Hawaii
The lush, tropical, and adventure-packed Hawaiian island of Oahu is one of the most popular for tourists. It makes sense, being home to some of the best beaches in Hawaii!
Everyone’s heard of the famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, and it doesn’t disappoint with great surfing and stunning views of the towering Diamond Head volcanic crater along its pristine, white sandy shores.
Waikiki’s western end, Kahanamoku Beach, has been named one of the best beaches of 2023 by Dr. Beach. Its wide, white sand shores, a diver-favorite coral reef, and calm lagoon share those same views of the Diamond Head crater.
About an hour away, Waimea Bay Beach Park in Haleiwa is a surfer’s paradise with 30-footers during winter and calm, snorkel-friendly water in the spring and summer.
Don’t miss the 2-mile Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu, where you’re sure to see talented surfers riding big waves in the wintertime.
Haleiwa Beach Park (also on the North Shore) is perfect for families and boasts “small town vibes,” surrounded by fragrant lilacs, lots of sea turtles, and plenty of play areas for kids.
2. Clearwater Beach, Florida
A trip to sunny Clearwater Beach, Florida offers something for every type of beach traveler. Whether you’re looking for tourist-packed beaches with lots of attractions or secluded shores dotted with beachgrass, Clearwater has it all.
For the ultimate in natural beauty and seclusion, the award-winning Caladesi Island Beach is a quick, 20-minute ferry trip from Clearwater Beach.
It’s one of the 10 best beaches in the USA for a reason! Three miles of white sandy shores, excellent shelling, water sports, and great amenities make this off-the-beaten-path beach well worth visiting.
Make no mistake, though – the public Clearwater Beach is one of the best beaches in Florida with the massive 1,080-foot Pier 60. Just across the sand is the promenade, packed with great restaurants and shops.
The beautiful Honeymoon Island State Park beach is on a barrier island just off the coast and offers a mix of privacy and amenities on a beautiful, white sand beach.
Or head to Sand Key, another nearby barrier island that encompasses 95 acres with 2 top-rated Clearwater beaches that feel secluded and remote with plenty of amenities for full beach days.
3. Malibu, California
Malibu, California has some of the best beaches on the West Coast. No wonder it’s one of the best beach vacations in the US! The water can be chilly, but Malibu’s beaches are perfect for sunbathing, surfing, and playing beach games.
Paradise Cove Beach might be the most famous beach in Malibu – it’s been featured as the quintessential California beach in Baywatch, The OC, and American Pie 2 – and it’s one of the best with great ocean views.
At Paradise Cove Beach, you can enjoy adult beverages on the sand. It’s one of the only areas in California that allow it, thanks to the Paradise Cover Beach Cafe that technically extends all the way down to the water.
Mingling the Pacific Ocean and Malibu Creek is the beautiful Malibu Lagoon State Beach or Surfrider Beach. It’s surrounded by rugged cliffs that drop down to the sandy shore and home to some gnarly waves.
El Matador Beach is another coastal highlight in Malibu, often ranked as one of California’s cleanest and best beaches. Natural beauty and steep, rocky hillsides lead down to the sand where you’ll spot sea caves and huge rock formations in the water.
Head just north to La Piedra State Beach or south to Lechuza Beach to see more of Malibu’s beautiful coastline – they’re both within walking distance of El Matador and home to incredible sunsets.
4. Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach, California is one of the best beach vacations – not just on the West Coast, but in the US overall. Located just 35 miles from L.A. in sunny Southern California, this place does beach vacations properly.
Here, you’ll be welcomed with mild temperatures (even in summer) and 8.5 miles of wide, clean beaches stretching down the SoCal coast. The HB Pier juts out nearly 2,000 feet into the Pacific as the longest recreational pier in the state.
Mentioned in The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ Safari” and the inspiration for Jan and Dean’s “Surf City,” Huntington Beach is certainly a top spot for surfing with big swells that are unrivaled on the West Coast.
But families, water sports enthusiasts, and fishermen will feel right at home in Huntington Beach, too. Sunsets are unforgettable on the southwest-facing shores.
You’ll want to beach-hop around the city, hitting Huntington City Beach first and its smaller Dog Beach if you’re bringing your pup. Look for people surfing with their dogs – it’s an incredible sight!
But the real star of the show here is Bolsa Chica State Beach, one of the best beaches in California. It’s 3 miles long, popular but never crowded or rowdy, and home to famously curled waves due to the shallow water.
5. Maui, Hawaii
Taking a beach vacation somewhere in Hawaii will never steer you wrong, but heading to Maui will guarantee that you wind up lounging and playing on some of the most beautiful coastline anywhere in the US.
The island of Maui, Hawaii is filled 30 miles of stunning coastal areas that boast big waves in some spots, calm water for kids and snorkeling in others, and gorgeous scenery no matter where you look.
Mokapu Beach is perfect for snorkeling and sunbathing, Keawakapu Beach boasts tide pools teeming with life, and Polo Beach is a swimmer’s and boogie-boarder’s paradise.
Ulua Beach is famous for diving on its outer reef to see colorful fish and turtles, and Wailea Beach offers excellent views of nearby islands and islets just off the coast of Maui.
Head over to Makena, Maui to snorkel the coves of the lava rock shores at La Perouse Bay, kayak, dive shallow reefs, and fish at Makena Bay, or enjoy space to spread out and lounge on the wide shores of Makena Beach.
Catch big swells (or just watch in awe as others do) at D.T. Fleming Beach Park on the western side of Maui with all the comforts you need – restrooms, picnic areas, and showers – nearby.
If big waves aren’t your style, head to Maluaka Beach in Turtle Town (south of Wailea) for uniquely calm waters just right for snorkeling and swimming thanks to the wind protection from Haleakala Mountain.
6. Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach is home to some of the best beaches on the East Coast and it’s a favorite Florida destination for sun and fun in a glitzy, cultural haven where good times, music, and food are always part of the scene.
Miami Beach is the largest cruise ship port on the planet and boasts 35 miles of wide Atlantic coastline. The vibe is always energetic and lively in this subtropical destination with dozens of beaches to choose from.
Start on the northern end to snorkel at 2-mile Sunny Isles Beach before enjoying a concert at Samson Oceanfront Park. Head over to Surfside Beach for a mile of quiet shoreline with cafes, hotels, and shops in walking distance.
North Beach is perfect for a lazy day on the sand (concessions and showers are nice) followed by a show at the North Beach Bandshell, while Mid Beach’s boardwalk is ideal for families enjoying a day at the beach.
The top-rated South Beach can’t be missed if you want classic Miami vibes with music, cool architecture, a constant stream of cruise ships arriving and departing, and tons of cafes and shops to check out.
If you’re feeling adventurous (or just strongly opposed to tan lines), head to the north end of the clothing-optional Haulover Beach overlooking Biscayne Bay!
7. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
A lot of the best beach vacations are along the southeast, southern, and western regions of the US, but the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts cannot be ignored on a list of the best.
Cape Cod is home to some truly spectacular beaches that are best enjoyed in summertime. Mayflower Beach on the bay side is known for fiery sunsets, calm water, and family-friendly shores with lifeguards and picnic areas.
South Cape Beach in Mashpee’s South Cape Beach State Park is a mile of white sand overlooking Nantucket Sound and Martha’s Vineyard. The water is warmer here and fishing, kayaking, and hiking is popular.
Newcomb Hollow Beach is a great spot with jagged seaside cliffs and big sand dunes. People come for the calmer waters and chance to enjoy a small fire on the shore at night. Bring binoculars to see seals and sharks off the coast!
Spot an old shipwreck peeking through the waves or examine tide pools at Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro, take in the gorgeous views at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, or head to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham.
Coast Guard Beach is beautiful, always ranking among the top Cape Cod beaches. Explore the old coast guard station and relax on the shore watching birds and seals.
8. St. Simons Island, Georgia
The 18 square mile St. Simon’s Island is just off the coast of Georgia and offers everything from family-friendly fun and activities to natural beauty and seclusion away from noise and attractions.
Surroundings of Spanish moss, salt marshes, lighthouses, and hard-packed beaches that are easy to walk and play on make St. Simon’s Island perfect for a beach vacation.
Fish, birdwatch, or watch whales migrating at St. Simon’s Pier, golf at a championship course, get real-life history lessons at the island’s museums, and enjoy hiking and biking through the serene, southern setting.
The lively East Beach is wide and roomy and the most popular beach on SSI, but note that the south end at Pier Village is inaccessible at high tide. Check out Gould’s inlet to see birds and cast a line into the surf.
Massengale Park Beach is shady with huge oak trees towering above and plenty of amenities like a playground, restrooms, and parking. Shelling is great here, and you’re likely to come away with sand dollars and big shells!
Neptune Park is also great for families, offering great views of the St. Simon’s Lighthouse, quick access to the pier and historic sites, and a fun zone with a pool, waterslide, and mini golf course.
9. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Kiawah Island sits off the coast of South Carolina, not far from the state’s lively capital city of Charleston. Go ahead and start dreaming of the 10-mile stretch of Low-country coast and lazy days in the sun spent here!
Kiawah Island is relatively unspoiled and oh-so-lush. Vegetation is everywhere, and this place feels like an undiscovered beach with the addition of excellent accommodations and amenities nearby.
Natural beauty and outdoor activities are the name of the game on Kiawah Island. This is where you’ll come for birdwatching at Captain Sam’s Inlet, canoeing, swimming, kayaking, fishing, and biking around the island.
Much of the island is a privately owned by a resort and golf course, so for access to the best beaches and scenery on the island, you’ll want to rent a guesthouse on the island or get a room at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Rated by Dr. Beach as one of the best beaches of 2023, Kiawah Island features 10 miles of sandy shores, 30 miles of trails for hiking and biking, a gorgeous golf course, and 120+ acres of beautiful parks to enjoy.
10. North Padre Island, Texas
Looking for quiet time on a sandy shore somewhere beautiful? North Padre Island, Texas is where you’ll find some of the best beaches in Texas and the makings of the perfect beach vacation.
With an unspoiled, remote vibe and a sprawling 66 miles of uninterrupted shoreline, this is where people come to relax and unwind surrounded by natural beauty.
This secluded barrier island just 15 minutes from Corpus Christi is where you’ll find the famous Padre Island National Seashore (PINS), a haven for wildlife and vegetation that seem to envelope you in the coastal charm of this southern shore.
White sand stretches out for miles in either direction, hugging the warm-water coastline that’s packed with large, intact shells, excellent fishing, and chances to enjoy thrilling water sports.
You’ll find plenty of amenities on the island and enjoy the unique chance to drive right up to the beach – it makes unloading your beach gear so much easier!
Not into the quiet, natural beaches? Nearby is South Padre Island, where the vibes are a bit more lively and the beaches attract a younger crowd.
Things to Consider
Before you rush to plan a trip based on the 10 best beach vacations, there are some helpful questions you can ask yourself to narrow the list down to the perfect spot for you.
- Who are you bringing along? Are you going to the beach solo, with friends, as a couple, or on a family trip? Some beaches are better than others for families with kids (like Oahu, Clearwater, and St. Simon’s Island) due to areas with calmer waters, playgrounds, kid-friendly attractions, and more. Consider who’s coming to start narrowing down your options.
- What do you want to do at the beach? Adventurous, always-on-the-go types will want to choose a beach that’s about much more than sunbathing and lounging on the sand. Any beach with good swells can be great to try surfing or boogie boarding, while calmer waters are ideal for snorkeling and diving. Beach volleyball, hiking, and biking are possible at all of the best beach vacations!
- What season will you be visiting during? Every region has variations in weather and temperature throughout the year – even places where it’s relatively stable year-round, like Hawaii. Research the best time to visit each place so you’ll know if your trip aligns with the overall best, cheapest, least busy, or worst time to go.
- What’s your budget? Your travel budget can be the biggest help in finding out which beach destination is right for your trip. It’s generally more expensive to go longer distances, so the cheapest beach to visit may be the one that’s closest to you. Still, do some research on hotels, food, and entertainment to see how affordable the beach you’re considering really is.
Frequently Asked Questions
What did we miss? Check out these frequently asked questions from curious travelers to learn more about finding the best beach vacations!
What is the best beach to travel to?
The best beach to travel to might be those on Oahu, Hawaii: Waikiki Beach, Kahanamoku Beach, Waimea Bay Beach, and Sunset Beach on the North Shore.
Clearwater Beach, Florida is home to some of the best beaches to travel to as well. Caladesi Island beach, Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island beach, and Sand Key beach are all excellent to visit.
What is America's number 1 beach?
This year’s number 1 beach destination is Oahu, Hawaii, an island home to many of the world’s top-rated beaches in a gorgeous, tropical setting.
From volcanic craters and mountains to waterfalls and dreamy lagoons, Oahu surf-friendly beaches are #1 in the US.
Where is the cheapest place to go to the beach?
The cheapest places to go to the beach are generally less-visited beaches or areas with a range of budget accommodations, like Gulf Shores, AL, Virginia Beach, VA, and South Padre Island, TX.
Hotels.com found that Cape May, NJ, St. Augustine, FL, and Big Sur, CA are other cheap places to go to the beach.
What is the prettiest beach in Florida?
Caladesi Island State Park beach in Clearwater, FL is a contender for the prettiest beach in Florida, owing to its unspoiled, natural beauty and abundant wildlife along the sparkling white sand shores.
Other pretty beaches in Florida include Miami’s many beaches, especially South Beach, and Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota.
Which Florida beach has the bluest water?
Florida beaches on the Gulf of Mexico (Panama City Beach, Clearwater Beach, etc.) are known for extremely clear, emerald-colored waters that sometimes appear aqua in color.
The Florida Keys are the best place to see blue waters, especially if you get off the island.
Get Packed for the Best Beach Vacations!
You’ve seen the 10 best beach vacations the US has to offer, from the sun-drenched shores of Oahu, Hawaii to the quiet, natural beauty on North Padre Island, Texas.
If you’ve settled on a spot that sounds perfect for your next trip to the coast, it’s not too soon to start thinking about what you’ll be packing for your trip!
You don’t want to leave without sunscreen (reef-safe, if it’s required), a few swimsuits that make you feel amazing, and comfortable shoes in case you find yourself hiking, biking, or exploring the town.
Whether you’re heading to the beach alone, with friends, with your partner, or as a family unit, set your course to one of the 10 best beach vacations to make sure this trip is a resounding success!